The Conservative Agenda: Tax Cuts for the Rich, Cuts for Social Security

The House passed a bill last Thursday extending the Bush-era tax cuts for those making less than $250,000 but allowing them to expire for those making over that amount. Conservatives were apoplectic, and they vow to defeat any similar measure in the Senate. With the aid of the filibuster they’ll probably succeed. And by doing so, they’ll be accomplishing two things.

One is showing how utterly uninterested they are in the American public’s preferences on tax issues. Poll after poll shows that only a small minority—about a third—want to keep the tax cuts for the rich while everybody else wants to let them expire. The latest evidence comes from a Roper/AP-CNBC poll. Thirty-four percent in that poll wanted to keep the tax cuts for everyone including the rich, while 64 percent wanted either to just keep the tax cuts with incomes less than $250,000 (50 percent) or end them for everyone (14 percent).

Conservatives’ devotion to tax cuts for the rich also shows their lack of seriousness about tackling the deficit problem. Ending the Bush tax cuts for the rich would save $700 billion over 10 years but those savings are obviously far less important to them than their ideological antitax, pro-wealthy agenda.

So what kind of actions do conservatives favor to rein in the deficit? Why, slashing social programs, of course. That’s why they’ve been giving a warm reception to the Bowles-Simpson deficit commission’s proposals to cut Social Security. The public feels differently, however. In the same poll the public vigorously opposed the proposal to raise the Social Security retirement age to 69. Just 28 percent favored this idea while 64 percent opposed it.

That’s conservatives for you. Their real commitment is to their ideology—an ideology of cutting social programs, opposing taxes, and rewarding the rich. It’s certainly not to reducing the deficit and even less to the wishes of the American public.

Ruy Teixeira is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. To learn more about his public opinion analysis go to the Media and Progressive Values page and the Progressive Studies program page of our website.